On February 19, 2020, Hannah Clarke and her three young children were killed when the car they were in was intentionally set alight by Hannah’s estranged husband. In a shocking culmination of years of domestic abuse, the murders of Hannah, Aaliyah, Laianah and Trey stands as a devastating example of the insidious nature of family violence and was viewed by many to be a watershed moment in Australia’s response to domestic violence. It is a heartbreaking reality that in the few short months of 2021, five Australian women have already lost their lives to domestic violence homicide.
In the wake of unspeakable tragedy and in response to Australia’s domestic violence crisis, Hannah’s parents Sue and Lloyd Clarke started Small Steps 4 Hannah. In a touching homage to their beloved family members, Small Steps 4 Hannah aims to H(annah) A(aliyah) L(aianah) T(rey) the cycle of domestic violence in Australia. Through avenues of education, advocacy, fundraising and support, Small Steps 4 Hannah plans to put a HALT to the incidences and severity of domestic and family violence in Australia.
It is the education component that Professor Molly Dragiewicz, an Associate Professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Griffith University believes is key to Australia’s response to domestic violence. Professor Dragiewicz believes that university degrees in disciplines such as healthcare and law should have elective courses in domestic violence available to students, to help inform their future professional practice.
“I would really like to see broader, more widespread education especially at universities- it just seems like there’s such an opportunity. When we have domestic violence electives, they are quite well enrolled that they’re quite popular with students too. I think if we offered it, more students would take it out of interest.”
Professor Heather Douglas is a Professor of Law at Melbourne University and an internationally renowned expert on legal responses to domestic and family violence. Professor Douglas also believes that education and community outreach are imperative if we are to effectively address the domestic violence crisis in Australia.
“More focus should be placed on prevention and early intervention, including for example better housing options, child care, financial support and better education in schools for children and adolescents. Programs like men’s behaviour change, drug and alcohol and so on are desperately under-resourced and these kinds of programs are more successful in addressing violent behavior that criminalisation.”
Small Steps 4 Hannah is particularly focused on coercive control, Professor Douglas describes coercive control as a variety of methods by an abuser to “hurt, degrade, intimidate, exploit, isolate, and control their victim.
“The forms of abuse used develop and change over time and are specific to the abused person’s circumstances, with the abuser testing different approaches to see what works best to control the individual woman at a given time.
“This means that methods change over time and depending on the context, and might include physical violence, threats, deprivation of basic needs like food and sleep, surveillance and degradation.”
It is these non-physical forms of abuse that Hannah Clarke herself was subject to in her marriage and that she and those around her struggled to define as domestic violence.
Whilst Small Steps 4 Hannah is in its infancy, Sue and Lloyd Clarke along with their son Nat are determined to “fight the good fight so that another family won’t have to endure the pain and loss of losing their daughter, sister and grandkids.”
Please join the Clarke family and Small Steps 4 Hannah in lighting a candle at 5.30pm this Friday in memory of Hannah, Aaliyah, Laianah and Trey.
The National Sexual Assault, Family & Domestic Violence Counselling Line – 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732) – is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week for any Australian who’s experienced, or is at risk of domestic violence and/or sexual assault.
Image Source: Small Steps 4 Hannah